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Researcher Development


About the research project

'Navigating the Career Hairpin' seeks to find out how researchers prepare for and deal with the significant career transition from being a postdoctoral researcher to achieving research independence by becoming a Principal Investigator (PI). The research specifically looks at the time period from when researchers started their PhD to obtaining their first substantial grant as PI. The project will develop resources to support the personal, professional and career development of postdoctoral researchers, and will provide data to inform researcher and educational development policy and practice.

The project is funded by The Elsevier Foundation New Scholars Programme, the University of Cambridge and Leiden University. Ethical approval was granted by the University of Cambridge on the 20th January 2014.


Project rationale

Globally, the number of postdoctoral researchers is increasing and the length of the postdoctoral period is lengthening. The postdoctoral period is when individuals are expected to further develop their scholarly independence, their scholarly identity and their academic career trajectory, yet their experiences of gaining a permanent position in academia are relatively under-examined. There is also little evidence on which to base changes in policy and practice in order to facilitate their advancement.


Project methodology

Three research-intensive Universities are participating in the research study: the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London in the UK, and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Data are being collected at an individual level through an in-depth interview method and at an institutional level using a template in order to capture the policies, funding and professional and career development support offered.


Project outputs

In 2014 and 2015, preliminary findings were disseminated at:

Papers published from this project include:


Who’s involved?

For more information about the research project contact Sharon Saunders